"My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me." (Psalm 63:8)
Sometimes, when we have spent deliberate time with someone, we suddenly discover that being in their company is something we count on happening. In a similar manner, committing ourselves to this Lenten journey has likely become something we look forward to doing together. Now, imagine God yearning, even straining, to be in our company simply because God has committed everything to giving us the path that leads to an eternity together. The psalmist wrote, "My soul clings to you," to God. This week, spend some time thinking about God saying the same thing to us... "My soul clings to you, my beloved people..."
This Week's Breath Prayer: "Take our broken hearts and make us one with you!"
A DEVOTION FROM ALEX BEURKET
"My prayer for you is that you will overflow more and more with love for others, and at the same time keep on growing in spiritual knowledge and insight, for I want you always to see clearly the difference between right and wrong, and to be inwardly clean, no one being able to criticize you from now until our Lord returns. May you always be doing those good, kind things that show you are a child of God, for this will bring much praise and glory to the Lord." (Philippians 1:9-11)
If you were to chart my reading habits over my lifetime, it would look by beginning as something like a rollercoaster – a steep and steady buildup during my childhood, and then a sudden complete drop off during my teens and early twenties, before eventually climbing again following college and now leveling off at a consistent rate. As I’ve considered this habit over that timeline, what stands out is the amount of choice I had in those seasons of life in what I read and the amount that I was reading. As a young child everyone wants to help you develop the skill and desire to read, so often what you read (The Captain Underpants series) wasn’t nearly as important as just the fact that you were reading. At the age when you’ve mastered reading enough for it to become an assignment, everything changes.
Now it’s not just enough that you are reading, but that you read a certain book and a set amount by a deadline and be able to interpret its subjective meaning. For me, this led to a lot of skimming, internet searches, and collaborating with others and much less actual reading (sorry teachers and professors). When formal "school" ended is when my personal schooling began, and my love for reading has thankfully since recovered and matured (Man’s Search for Meaning or Meditations anyone?). This same roller-coaster path parallels with my faith journey and coincidentally enough reading the Bible. At a young age I surely wouldn’t have had the mental fortitude to process reading the Bible, but my energy towards growing closer to God was certainly there. As I hit the teenage years and early 20s, that desire fell dramatically. Never "lost," but in no way intentionally active, much more of the ‘taking command from others’ relationship that I experienced in schooling and reading also. As I’ve emerged back into my reading habit and relationship with God, I’ve progressively read more of the Bible – often through the Guideposts daily devotional book series, and through some other faith-based books.
With my reading and relationship to God growing, I set my sights on the goal of reading the entire Bible, front to back, in one year (2021). The version of the Bible I was gifted for Christmas 2020 in preparation for the year of reading had divided the Bible into a daily section with some additional commentary and context on that days passage. This was a similar format to other books I had read daily in prior years (Daily Guideposts, The Daily Stoic, A Calendar of Wisdom). But wow...the Bible became a much different journey. There were periods in the year of great commitment and adherence to the pace, others where I didn’t pick it up for weeks. I learned a lot about the entire story of the Bible, and the Jewish and Christian tradition. I wrestled with patience, perseverance, perspective while waiting for Jesus and the gospel, and above all grew my connection to God. It was a beautiful and rewarding experience. If you have yet to take on this quest, I strongly encourage it, yet I might suggest finding a group or Bible Study to join simply for the sake of accountability and understanding...Which brings me to the verse I chose, which was the concluding prayer offered by Pastor Steven at Katie and I’s wedding ceremony this past June. To grow in spiritual knowledge and insight, with an overflow of love, in order to do good and bring glory to God. Amen!
A DEVOTION FROM SUSAN MEDERT
I want to share my thoughts about a sing that has inspired me. The song is "You’ll Never Walk Alone." Oscar Hammerstein’s lyrics to the beautiful melody written by Richard Rodgers are very meaningful to me. I think the words can bring comfort and offer hope when we may be feeling down and needing to be reminded that God is with us in all of life’s ups and downs. I hope others may also find some comfort, hope, and strength from the lyrics of this beautiful song:
"When you walk through a storm, hold your head up high, and don’t be afraid of the dark. At the end of the storm is a golden sky, and the sweet silver song of the Lark.
Walk on through the wind. Walk on through the rain; though your dreams be tossed and blown…Walk on, walk on with hope in your heart, and you’ll never walk alone. You’ll never walk alone!"
A DEVOTION FROM STEVE BATES
From the Lord's Prayer: "Give Us Today Our Daily Bread"
This means we have no guarantee of any day beyond this one. May I trust the Lord for what I need today, nourishment for my body and soul, and not to worry about any future needs.May I also be ever responsive to those less fortunate than me. This portion of the Lord's Prayer is why I have dedicated my free time to be of service to the Lord by helping others with my involvement in the Milford Miami Ministries Food and Clothing Pantry and The Kingdom Warriors. Both organizations are sponsored by our church to provide food and clothing for people in need. One serves Milford and Miami Township and the other provides hot meals and fresh clothing to the homeless living under bridges and in tents in downtown Cincinnati every Monday night.
A PRAYER: Have mercy on us, O Lord and help us have mercy on others. You call us to love other people, but so often we assume they deserve what they get. Free us from these broken and bad attitudes and use us to build up the world in love by being ever mindful of the needs of others. Amen.
A DEVOTION FROM JACKIE SHIVELY
"Bear one another’s burdens..." (Galatians 6:2)
I sat under a pecan tree in the hot Texas sun on a summer day, drinking iced tea and getting to know my new sister-in-law Estelle. Not much older than I, but already the mother of three. Estelle seemed to me experienced and wise.
"Get yourself some girlfriends," she advised, clinking the ice cubes in her glass. "You are going to need girlfriends. Go places with them; do things with them."
What a funny piece of advice, I thought. Hadn’t I just gotten married? Hadn’t I just joined the couple world? I was a married woman now for goodness sake, not a young girl who needed girlfriends. But I listened to this new sister-in-law. I got myself some girlfriends. As the years tumbled one after the other, gradually I came to understand that Estelle knew what she was talking about. Here is what I know about girlfriends.
Girlfriends bring casseroles and scrub your bathroom when you are sick.
Girlfriends keep your children and keep your secrets.
Girlfriends give advice when you ask for it, sometimes you take it, sometimes you don’t.
Girlfriends don’t ways tell you you're right, but they’re usually honest.
Girlfriends still love you even when they don’t agree with your choices.
Girlfriends might send you a birthday card, but they might not. It does not matter in the least.
Girlfriends laugh with you and you don’t need canned jokes to start the laughter.
Girlfriends pull you out of jams.
Girlfriends are there for you in an instant, and truly when the hard times come.
Girlfriends don’t keep a calendar that lets them know who hosted last.
Girlfriends listen when you lose a job or a husband.
Girlfriends listen when your children break your heart.
Girlfriends listen when your parents mind and body fail.
Girlfriends bless my life. Once we were young with no idea of the incredible sorrows or the incredible joys that lay ahead. Nor did we know how much we would need each other. Enjoy your day, girlfriend!
- Source Unknown
A DEVOTION FROM MARY ANN SHREVE
"His outstretched arms protect you – under them you’re safe: His arms fend off all harm...He ordered his angels to guard you where you go..." (Psalm 91:4,11)
Labor Day 2004. Our family just had a wonderful day together. My husband, our daughter Lisa and I had gone to bed and our two sons were in the basement playing video games. 1:00 a.m.: John heard a loud pop but didn't think much of it. A little later there was a loud knock at the door...Lisa looks out her window and all she sees is yellow...John comes upstairs to answer the door...He notices the back porch is on fire...he yells for Paul to wake us up...John calls 911. The house was on fire from a faulty electrical unit. The fire went up the outside of the house and into the rafters. It hadn't reached the fire alarms to warn us. We all got out of the house. I prayed that a few things be spared to pass down to my children. I prayed for angels. Our family’s antique furniture was able to be restored and a few other items. We lost 95 percent of the house and its contents by fire and water.
And then came the outpouring of love. Neighbors, friends, family and strangers bringing food and water, collections taken, gift cards and offering their homes for us to stay. There were friends that took our children shopping to get them clothes and other items. So much love that we never felt alone in our efforts to reestablish our lives. Insurance helped us rebuild our home.
Going through the process of rebuilding was much like Lent for me. There were days of grief and uncertainty. There were days on what is really important in our lives. Then came the days of celebration knowing that God was with us each and every moment. From all that love, we knew God was holding us in His arms and protecting us. Thanks be to God.
P.S. The top floor of our house was mostly gone. Not much survived but one box. Untouched by the fire and water was a box full of old bibles from my family who have gone before me.
A DEVOTION FROM DONNA PARRISH
Being able to paint with oils was never a goal I thought I could reach. Being told, by a very talented woman, that she could teach me how to paint seemed impossible.
With her instruction and a desire to learn, I have found a new outlet that lets me create beautiful pictures. After all these years of painting, I am still amazed at what faith can do, especially when God blesses our efforts.